Chapter 1: The Quest for Pura Vida

Día de la Madre

August 15th in the Catholic Church is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, and is based off of the belief that Mary was taken body and soul into Heaven at the end of her life, the idea being that because of her close physical bond with Jesus Christ, her body should not decay.

Catholicism is woven into the culture of Costa Rica and the celebration in honor of the Mother of God is also a celebration of all mothers in Costa Rica.  Therefore, Mother’s Day in Costa Rica is always on August 15th rather than falling on the second Sunday in May, as it does in the United States.  Also, it’s a national holiday.  I really am getting spoiled with all these days off school.

This morning, I went with my host mom, brother, and sister to Mass in the cemetery.  The cemetery?  Yes, the cemetery.  Mass is said in the cemetery in honor of the mothers who have passed on.

–A Little Digression/Mini Spanish Lesson–

In Spanish, there are two words for “to be,” which are “ser” and “estar.”  It gets a little more complicated than this, but in general, the difference is that “ser” is for permanent things such as personality traits and descriptions, while “estar” is for more temporary things such as emotions.  Therefore, when I say, “Soy feliz,” I’m saying I am a happy person in general, and when I say, “Estoy feliz,” I’m saying I feel happy at this moment.  However, when someone dies, he “está muerte.”  This may seem odd, as being dead tends to be a permanent condition, but it is said in this way because of the belief that the soul passes on into eternal life; therefore, death is temporary.

–End of Digression–

We didn’t drive directly to the cemetery.  I’m learning that my host family never drives directly anywhere.  They always stop at a family member’s house to meet up with someone or pick someone up and stay for 30 minutes talking.  Now, I’m not complaining; I like meeting new family members and it’s always interesting to see other houses, but I suspect I’m starting to discover one of the root causes of “tico time.”

Anyway, we met up with my mamá tica’s sister and her husband, talked to them and other family members for a while, and then went to the cemetery, where they placed flowers on the grave of my host mom’s mother.

Día de la Madre 016 web Día de la Madre 013 web

The cemeteries here look different from cemeteries in the United States.  The graves come above-ground and look like boxes covered in tile.  Also, if I understood my host mom correctly, multiple members of the same family are buried in the same grave.  So, while this grave is the width of one person, there are at least four or five people buried in it.

Día de la Madre 007 web

Even though we were in a cemetery, this was not a solemn affair.  More family members showed up and everyone talked some more, and my host sister sat on the grave and blew bubbles from a bottle she had found in the car (my host sister is older than I am.  There’s a reason I get along with this family).

Mass was held under an awning at the front of the cemetery.  The crowd spilled out from under the awning and people perched on graves with umbrellas to block the sun.  It was a beautiful Mass, and I was happy because I’m starting to be able to follow the Spanish, even though I still have to mumble the responses quietly to myself in English.  After Mass, a mariachi band started playing.  There was an overall air of celebration.

Afterwards, we drove to another family member’s house to pick her up, went by our house, and then went out to eat at this tiny fantastic Italian place in San José.

Almuerzo web

That picture is technically of my cousin’s meal, but I had the same thing, except I had pasta with pesto sauce and shrimp instead of salmon pizza.  The restaurant had flowers to give to the mothers, which I think is wonderful.

When we returned, I retired to my room.  I was pleasantly full (a little overstuffed actually.  I’m still not hungry, and it’s 11:30 at night), and I’m also recovering from being sick, so I was tired.  The rest of the family took off celebrate with my host dad’s side of the family.  I don’t think I’m missing out on anything because, if I understand my host mom correctly, there’s another get-together on Sunday because a couple of my host dad’s siblings couldn’t make it today.

Seems like a good idea to me.  Not everyone can make it?  Great, we’ll just have to add another party.


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